Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Satan to Winter in Boca

The city council of Boca Raton, Florida, is welcoming Satan and his faithful minions to their fair city this December. City leaders clearly felt that their town's balmy temperatures and crystal coastline were all well and good for the upcoming holidays, but something was lacking. Fortunately, middle school teacher Preston Smith rose to the occasion--as he did last year--and applied for a permit to erect, near the city's usual Christmas Nativity scene, a tribute to Satan to round out the holiday cheer.  

City officials seemed caught between a rock and a fiery place. As Breitbart.com reported:

Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie said she personally found the display “extremely offensive . . . But you know, again, we’ve chosen as the council to honor free speech.”

Similarly, Scott Singer, a city council member, said, “This is not consistent with my particular values, but free speech means people have an opportunity to express themselves, whether government likes it or not or whether individuals like it or not.”*

I wish the city council had called me before signing that permit. I would have told them that even free speech must, legally, stay within certain bounds. As we all know, we are not allowed to publicly promote crimes and violence against others. You usually cannot get a permit for that, or for fomenting revolution. 

So, did the council ask language arts teacher Preston Smith what his contrasting "religious" beliefs are as an Atheistic Satanist? If he subscribes to The Satanic Temple, one of their seven basic tenets is: "The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions."** This is a noble-sounding way of expressing the principle in most Satanic sects (they are a fractious bunch that cannot unite under one creed, it seems) that obedience to civil laws is optional. Their idol is, after all, Satan, the ultimate rebel. They see the will of the individual as supreme. 

So the officials of Boca Raton are permitting a display on behalf of a belief system that laughs at the whole concept of laws and order as we know it. Would they also issue a permit for a display from a revolutionary group that advocated dismantling the federal or local government and replacing it with an "Every man his own plan" society? Probably not. And yet . . . .

Much more could be said here about the dark and antisocial character of Satan worship, or about the frightening attributes of the fallen angel himself, as people have understood for thousands of years. All in all, these things represent the antithesis of what civilization has held up as valuable, healthy, and well-ordered. But even on merely civil grounds, the city council should definitely have known better.

You can view a picture of the 300-pound red pentagram scheduled to sit in the public square during the Christmas season--decked out with catchy slogans like "One Nation Under Anti-Christ" and "May the Children Hail Satan"--here. The page also features a petition, sponsored by Return to Order, protesting the city's decision to permit the devilish display. 

Happy Holidays!
_________
  * "A middle-school teacher in Florida plans to erect a Satan display that will invite children to 'hail Satan' during the upcoming Christmas season." Sept. 29, 2017. Read it here.
** The Satanic Temple's FAQ page.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com


Friday, October 27, 2017

Giant Naked Woman Will NOT Reside on National Mall

Following up on my previous column, I received an email from the National Park Service yesterday (10/26/17) saying that they are NOT issuing a permit for the 45-foot statue of a naked woman to be part of the Cartharsis on the Mall event in November. I can only imagine that lots of sensible citizens sent their emails to this guardian of our national monuments to say what a bad, bad idea the addition of this provocative statue would be. Many thanks to all my readers who spoke up!

Here is an excerpt from Mr. Litterst's message:

The National Park Service found that some proposed structures would be inconsistent with established resource protection guidelines and the public’s use and enjoyment of the National Mall. These elements, including the “R-Evolution” statue and a memorial temple, were therefore not approved as part of the pending public gathering permit. 
 
The request to locate R-Evolution on turf near the Washington Monument for 91 days and the temple for 119 days is significantly in excess of the five-day time restriction set forth in the National Mall Turf Management Guidelines and would likely cause significant damage to and require replacement of the underlying turf and soil. Additionally, the proposed nearly 48-foot height of the statue introduces a visual element that would diminish the property’s significant historic features by altering the setting and historic character of the National Mall landscape. [emphasis added]

Thank you again for your interest in National Mall and Memorial Parks.
 
Mike Litterst
Chief of Communications
National Park Service
National Mall & Memorial Parks

We also applaud the NPS for replying to those of us who sent an email on the subject, giving us this encouraging news. I am enormously relieved that the dignity of the Mall will not be violated by such a statue (although the Catharsis event, which will indeed take place, sounds less than dignified). 

Thank you, National Park Service.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Activists Challenge the Nation With Their 45-Foot Naked Woman

Oh, my! Have you seen what some people are trying to erect on the National Mall in D.C.? Nothing less than a 45-foot-tall naked woman made very realistically of steel tubing.

The sculpture is called R-Evolution (so clever, eh?!) and is the handiwork of artist Marco Cochrane. It is headed for the Mall thanks to the efforts of a group of activists, artists, and community organizers for an event known as  Catharsis on the Mall.

You might feel a tad embarrassed looking upon this towering, lifelike female who seems to have just stepped out of the shower, wondering where she put her robe. I imagine that the parents and teachers of the countless children who swarm the Mall each month will probably feel the same way.

But Mr. Cochrane, explains the piece this way (it is part of a trilogy of female figures): "They are intended to challenge the viewer to see past the sexual charge that has developed around the female body, which has been used for power and control, to the human being.  They are intended to de-objectify women and inspire men and women to take action to end violence against women, thus allowing both women and men to live fully and thrive."

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard this argument from the fearless folks on the left . . . It's the one that maintains that if we would just throw off the rusted shackles of prudery and embolden women to display their bodies unabashedly, women could then get some respect. They would no longer be "ashamed" of their bodies and would feel the empowerment that has long been due them.

Unfortunately, this plan, as evolved as it sounds, just does not work. Women have been wearing less and less, exposing their bodies more and more, since the beginning of the last century. However, strangely enough, the objectification of women proceeds apace. In fact, from what I see, it has only gained momentum. Note the unprecedented glut of pornography in every conceivable format as well as the worldwide plague of sexual trafficking and forced abortions, not to mention the inhuman 4-inch heels that female talk show hostesses and newscasters are made to wear, the pressure to surgically enhance women's figures, and so on.

The truth is, as some astute writers have pointed out, true empowerment for a woman lies in large part in her modesty, not her bold display of more and more of her body parts. A tasteful covering of provocative features brings the attention of her listener or her companion to her face, to her words, to her actions. The companion is not distracted by her sexuality and can instead focus on what she is saying. What an idea!

We are foolish to think that men, given enough exposure to exposed women, will stop seeing them in a sexual light. Men have been wired this way from creation and this will certainly continue. I do not advocate burkas. I do call for sensible and attractive clothing--on both men and women--to help us see each other as humans first, without the overt distraction of a strip-club sort of presentation.

According to a USA Today article (Sept. 29, 2017) on the controversial naked steel woman, "The sculpture is being brought to Washington, D.C. [from San Francisco] by the organizers of Catharsis on the Mall, an annual three-day event that features 24-hour activities, music and an effigy burn." And it's all about equal rights for women, too, with special emphasis on resurrecting the Equal Rights Amendment. The event concludes with a torching of effigies. Now, if that doesn't sound like an uplifting family activity, I don't know what.

If you'd like to tell the National Parks Service what you think, to permit this display or not, you can contact them here.
  _______________  
 
Photo courtesy of http://www.marcocochranesculpture.net/r-evolution/

Monday, October 2, 2017

Miracle of the Rain

Something remarkable happened yesterday. It was Sunday, October 1. Once again, like every year, the pro-life faithful were set to line a short stretch of U.S. 1 at 2:00 and hold up signs to passing drivers, reminding them of the miracle of new life and that it must be protected.  For one hour, as their children and grandchildren played behind them, these people would form a few dozen links in the Life Chain stretching across the country.

But it was raining. It had been raining since the day before. Not on and off, as we usually see, but nonstop, at times a drenching downpour, then lightening to an even shower. It poured through Saturday night and all Sunday morning, and drops continued to spatter the windshield as we drove to the rendezvous point a few minutes til two. We arrived just in time to grab a sign and form a line facing the oncoming traffic. But as we did this, the clouds ran out of water. They still hung darkly overhead, and the wind blew, but we stood with our paper signs, dry and comfortable.

Cars zoomed past us. Some drivers looked, many did not. Some honked their horns and cheered, most passed silently. I waved to one car that was slowing to a stop at the traffic light. In the passenger seat was a boy not more than ten, staring at me. He did not smile. Just before they pulled away from the green light, he raised his little hand and gave me the finger, and I could discern the driver beside him leaning toward me, making the same gesture. I stared back at the boy, my eyes wide as I involuntary cried "No!" in my dismay. He and his grown-up companion were the only ones to offer such a greeting to me that day.

Three o'clock came and we disbursed slowly. As we gave back our signs and chatted with friends, raindrops began to fall on us. Soon the thickening shower drove us into our cars. The rain had stopped for one hour and fifteen minutes--exactly enough time. The drenching rain kept up for several more hours then, without another break.

So I consider this the Miracle of the Rain. Not as spectacular as the Miracle of the Sun we will celebrate later this month, but still a divine touch that reminds us that we are being looked after.

I do pray for another miracle, though: that the boy who offered us a vulgar insult will remain uncomfortable with that memory, so that in the course of time he will examine why all those people saw fit to stand by the road that day when he was ten, below threatening skies, smiling and waving at him and holding signs about babies. Who knows--he might one day stand by the road with just such a sign or try in some other way to change things so that the Chain is no longer even needed.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Can a Major World Power Really Be This Bad?

Rampant fraud, theft, violent intimidation, deceit, and corruption up to the very highest office--this is Russia today, according to author Bill Browder, who lived through it. Sadly, his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, did not. Arrested on trumped-up charges, tormented in prison to extract a false confession, Magnitsky absorbed the full and lethal wrath of the reigning thugs who would not sit by as their schemes and crimes were exposed to the public.

I can't get Browder's story, Red Notice, out of my head. His edge-of-your-seat account of the inescapable brutality of the Kremlin, and a favored handful of Russian oligarchs who control that economy, stunned me. I've been used to Russia playing the bad guy in U.S.-Russian relations, but surely they aren't so awful these days? After all, communism crumbled there decades ago, right? 

Browder tells of his heady days in Moscow in the early 1990s, where he went to take advantage of the new privatization of companies. His company, Hermitage Capital, bought up large chunks of shares, whose value proceeded to go sky high. He made a lot of money, and a lot of money for his happy clients. But in the process he ran into things that did not add up. He hit obstacles that did not make sense. And he wound up exposing fraud and theft on a scale that I could hardly comprehend. 

This is an important book because it is not about the past. It is not about the horrors of Soviet Russia, where white could be declared black and the innocent could easily be executed as guilty. This is about Russia today, a country still in the grip of corruption and deceit, from the local policemen to the man at the very top. A land where the law is no guarantee of protection or anything resembling due process. 

It is also the story of Browder's quest for justice, especially for the horrifying murder of his friend and attorney Sergei. Feeling responsible for Sergei's arrest, an arrest spawned simply by the man's association with Browder, the author dedicates himself to exposing what happened and getting the perpetrators punished.

Near the end of the book, Browder writes this from his London home:
I have to assume that there is a very real chance that Putin or members of his regime will have me killed someday. Like anyone else, I have no death wish and I have no intention of letting them kill me. I can't mention most of the countermeasures I take, but I will mention one: this book. If I'm killed, you will know who did it. When my enemies read this book, they will know that you know. So if you sympathize with this search for justice, or with Sergei's tragic fate, please share this story with as many people as you can. That simple act will keep the spirit of Sergei Magnitsky alive and go further than any army of bodyguards in keeping me safe.

How could I not write about this book? I hope you will read it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Saw the House in Half, of Course

The next time you find yourself wondering if that last home improvement was really worth the money and all the trouble, think of George Eastman. I visited his mansion in Rochester, New York, recently. This camera and film tycoon (think Kodak film and Brownie cameras) stopped at nothing to achieve his ambitious goals, at home as in business.

After his magnificent house was completed in 1905, Mr. Eastman found that the conservatory, which occupies the center of the house, seemed somehow a little too small, a bit too square. Not by much, but still . . . .  I imagine that every time he descended the stairs and took his seat at the little breakfast table in that room, he squirmed with the vague discomfort of knowing that the space was not quite right. 

So Mr. Eastman put his architect and builders back to work. The assignment: Cut the house in half and push. Then insert nine more feet into the conservatory and do your best to match the existing marble in the floor. And that's what they did. I can only imagine the mess.

The result was superb, and you would never know that the room had been altered unless someone pointed out the slight variation in the floor. Now Mr. Eastman could eat his breakfast in peace, enjoying the music being played for him by his organist just across the room. (Eventually the great man realized that one organ was just not sufficient and had a second one installed to accompany it.)

Suddenly your plan for that addition does not look over-reaching after all, does it?
___________
Pictured: The conservatory at the George Eastman Mansion and Museum, Rochester, NY. Photo by Ann Doyle.
 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Other Horror of the Manchester Concert

The explosion at the Ariana Grande concert last night in Manchester, England, has certainly been widely covered in the news. And we can agree that it was a hideous, evil act that has devastated the families of all those who died there.

Many in the audience were teenagers, some with their parents. Reports mention children as young as 12 and even 8. So who is Ariane Grande that she attracts such a young crowd, with the approval of their parents?

I had to look her up on YouTube. The two videos I ran opened my eyes to who she is, but confused me deeply about why young girls were at the concert. First of all, Ariana is 23 years old, beautiful (of course), and a former Nickelodeon star. Once again, on the road to fame and wealth, a child star leaves behind her perky innocence and replaces it with a hyper sexual persona (remember Brittany Spears, Miley Cyrus, etc.).

In Ariana's "Side to Side" video, the first one I happened upon, she has been desperately waiting all day to be with her boyfriend, even though her friends warn her that he's no good. She admits, smiling, that she has "made deals with the devil" for the excitement that awaits her come evening. For some reason, she leads a pack of other overheated females in a workout on exercise bikes to demonstrate her feelings, and we are favored with camera shots from behind, where we discover that they are all wearing thongs. Lovely.

"Everyday" goes one better in its directness. Ariana dances in front of the camera, wearing an oversized men's down jacket, and tells us how her boyfriend gives her the "good sh-t" so she "never wants to quit" every day, every day. Huh? Did I misunderstand? That possibility is eliminated by the lyrics being boldly displayed across the screen as she sings this catchy number.

And parents are taking their 12-year-old daughters to this woman's concert?

That's the other horror of the Manchester incident, one that I don't read anything about in the news. And to me, it's harder to explain than a crazed ISIS operative setting off yet another explosive in a public place crowded with supposed infidels. Parents: Are Ariana's contortions and salacious lyrics the model you really want to put in front of your daughter--or son?

After writing about Shakira's irresponsible video just last week, I guess it could look like I am the crazy one. But I maintain that these female "artists" and their handlers are conducting a re-education effort on the world's young women. They are teaching them to ignore their instincts for romance and stability and family in favor of daily (wild) sex, freedom from any personal restraint, and a complete shedding of stuffy old values like finding a good man who can help care for and support them.

"It's just that sex sells," some will say. "That's why they do it." It's bigger than that, but it may well be about the money. People leading a regular life, raising children, surely don't spend their money as freely as those out there living for the moment.

But the question remains, to parents everywhere who condone the consumption of such entertainment by their children: What in the world are you thinking?




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Falling In Lunacy

I just got a new computer, driven to that desperate measure when my ancient laptop could no longer display even a run-of-the-mill web page without sighing and shutting down.

So, giddy at the prospect of listening to all the latest music YouTube had to offer, I hopped over to that site today and perused the opening page, showing what's popular now! I saw that Shakira had a new song. I do admire Shakira's voice, although she long ago sold out to the brokers of "ho style." Guess a tremendous voice is no longer enough for a young woman--but that's another column.

Shakira's video was for her song "Me Enamoré" (I fell in love). Even if you don't understand the Spanish lyrics, you'll get the story. Pretty girl in short-shorts falls for a raucous guy who busts up the hotel room--we see the after effects as girl calmly rights the capsized plastic palm and smiles at the appalling mess around her. Where's the perpetrator? We don't know, but heck, she doesn't mind.

Then we come along to watch more of their hijinks, like cutting through a chain on some gate, where they proceed to run through the compound gaily as a (luckily chained) dog snarls at them. Then they are in a meadow of yellow flowers, then they are having a food fight in the same abused hotel room. All action is punctuated with Shakira wryly looking at the camera as though to say, "I know he's a cretin, but gee, what can I do? I fell in love."

Of course the story ends with pretty girl Shakira falling into bed, laughing, as she beckons the bad, bad boy to follow. And oh! Joy! We at last get to see this irresistible criminal's handsome face in the parting shot.

Now, I hope Shakira did this video as an exposé on the lunacy of young women these days. If so, it earns a Brilliant rating. If instead it is supposed to be a seductive romp with irresponsibility and forbidden fun, then it encapsulates the epidemic that is running through our younger generations.

Shakira's captivating lover is there to hug and squeeze (and more); he is there to lead them in criminal trespass and other exhilarating pranks; he's there to turn a rented room upside down and leave spaghetti sauce on the walls (she will clean up after him). But I can't picture him staying up at night with the sick baby; can't picture him going into work every day, even when he does not feel like it; can't imagine him sitting with his pretty girl as she cries and vents about how the job interview fell through.

I pray daily that our young women will wake up from the fantasy that Hollywood has marketed for so many years now. It goes like this: You can have lots of fun, avoid almost all pain, stay beautiful, be your own person, seduce men when you feel like it, send them packing when you grow bored, succeed at whatever you want, and most of all, no matter what, have lots and lots of fun. And you can keep this up indefinitely. Hey, pass me another mojito!
 
Sorry, my dear, but the bar is closing. And you have a pretty steep tab to pay before you leave. Ah, your boyfriend will pay? I think I saw him leaving a few minutes ago with that girl with the unicorn tattoo.

Videos like Shakira's reflect a deep confusion. Why are we here? We're here for the good times, they say. Grab all you can. But in reality, women were put on Earth not just to keep guys company as they joyride across the country. They are in this world to stabilize, to reinforce, to listen and guide, to teach and lift up. They can make men better than they would be on their own. That means women can set the bar higher and inspire their men and children to reach it. That is world-changing. 

And part of a woman knows this. But it looks rather dull and long and undramatic. That's why they need other women to inspire them.

Shakira, and all the video vamps--do better. Get off the Tilt-a-whirl long enough to spend some time inspiring our young women toward better things, harder things--better things.





Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Lady Day

Hooray! This (March 8) is International Lady Day. Your calendar might show it as International Women's Day, but we know better.

This is a day to celebrate all things intrinsically and delightfully feminine. These include, but are not limited to, flowered teapots, sparkly earrings, warm hugs to children and anyone who looks like they need a bit of motherly encouragement, bright dresses, an uncanny understanding of personal relationships (especially by the older ladies), and sending out birthday cards on time to each family member.

So, ladies, feel free to go put on your frilliest dress and your favorite jewelry today and enjoy being a woman. Gentlemen, send a mental thank-you note heavenward that God did not stop after creating Adam.

And don't forget today to honor the most special Lady ever, Mary the mother of Jesus. Such an inspiration to us all.

Happy Lady Day!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Attacked by the Love and Compassion Crowd (or, What's So Great About Unity?

Doug Russo must have had a hunch that the Unity in Community rally here in St. Augustine this afternoon would need some balance that he could provide. Or maybe he took the organizers at their word, that this was to be "not a protest rally" but a time for us to come together in civility and learn to listen and talk with one another.

So he came to the Plaza de la Constitucion with his sign and quietly stood at one end, taking advantage of his Constitutional right to express his opinion. But evidently he was not unified enough. He did not love enough. Because a gang of attendees separated themselves from their fellow sign-carriers ("Stop the Hate," "Make America Kind Again," etc.) and surrounded him. They pulled him from the stone bench he stood on, shoved him, and knocked him to the ground. These ambassadors of honest dialog also tore his sign in two before they were done.

Fortunately, some people intervened, and Doug (not one to be easily chased away), dusted himself off, picked up the pieces of his sign, and resumed his position atop the stone bench. That's where I found him an hour later, still making his silent statement that "Abortion Kills Children."

This contemptible behavior by some of the Love and Unity folks comes as little surprise to many of us. We have seen for a long time the astounding contradiction between their words and their tactics toward those who oppose them. As you stir this strange pot, a crucial question rises to the surface: What's so great about unity, anyway?

The most unified countries are not places you would want to live. They are Communist countries, where no dissent from the Party line is allowed, no free thinking, no "divisive" expressions of personal beliefs. Is that what we're after?

I think not. We should remember that from the earliest days of our nation, we have been a people divided. Should we rebel or remain loyal to the crown? Should we leave the South's economy alone or eliminate slavery? Should we outlaw alcohol to reduce the ruinous effects of it on families or does each man have the right to as much whiskey as he can hold? And on and on.

Some of our differences involve logistics: What's the most effective way to get something done? Some involve allegiances to different economic models and taxation plans. But the most incendiary, as we see today, have to do with traditional moral values or the shedding of them.

And I find that beneath the cries of "Unity!" and "Compassion!" usually lies an insistence that people of traditional (Christian) values leave those beliefs behind. The new-age folks seem to think that clinging to these ideas--that unborn babies are people with rights and value, or that only a man plus a woman can make a true marriage--is so heinous as to constitute a crime against the new humanity. As such, you have no right to that belief and must be suppressed. Then we'll have unity!

Before I left Doug and headed home, two ladies walked past us, saw his sign, and asked if this was an anti-abortion rally. Doug said yes, and I explained that at this end (that is, Doug and his bench) it was, but over there (indicating the crowd), "Not so much." They walked on with a puzzled look.

But it's really simple. The last thing we want in the United States is unity, unless we must come together to defend ourselves from an enemy or rebuild from a hurricane.  The normal state of these United States is disagreement, the co-existence of starkly different ideologies and approaches to any given problem. But if we want to be a civilized country, we will not tear our opponents'--or their signs--to pieces, no matter how much we want to.

Sometimes our causes and candidates will win, and often they will lose. That's when we get to maintain our dignity and try again.

Photo by Ann Doyle.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Trading Places With an English Hound

Friends, I am switching some of my attention in the first days of this new year to a blog I have just launched: The English Hound. As the blog's subtitle says, the column will provide tips on using and even enjoying the English language. It is actually a continuation of a column by the same name that I began years ago while collecting a paycheck as a writer and editor. :-) And I find that I miss it.

My hope is that the Hound will provide interesting tidbits on why we say some of the things we do and how to avoid embarrassment through misuse of one kind or another.

You can find the Hound at EnglishHound.Blogspot.com. You may even submit questions through the Comment feature there, and I will try to cover them in upcoming columns (or include an email address if you would prefer an individual reply).

So we'll see you here at Saints and Muddy Shoes, or at The English Hound

Ann Maureen

January 3, 2017